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U.S. Accuses China Of Causing 'Massive Distortions' In Rare Earths Trade

Saying that "America's workers and manufacturers are being hurt in both established and budding industrial sectors" by Chinese trade policies that cause "massive distortions and harmful disruptions in supply chains," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk confirmed this morning that the U.S. is challenging China over its alleged restrictions on trade of some materials that are important in the manufacture of cellphones, hybrid car batteries, electronics, cars and other products.

The U.S. is joining Japan and the European Union in seeking "consultations" with China at the World Trade Organization over trade in "rare earths." President Obama Just outlined his administration's case at the White House.

The Financial Times says that "China produces more than 90 percent of the world's rare earths. Its stranglehold on global supplies caused alarm in 2010 when it temporarily halted exports to Japan after a diplomatic dispute. Beijing on Tuesday rejected the claims by the US, EU and Japan, saying China would 'continue to implement effective management of rare earths exports in accordance with WTO regulations.' "

The U.S. is also accusing China of unfair trade involving tungsten and molybdenum.

According to the Mother Nature Network, rare earths get that collective name because of "their elusive nature, since the 17 elements rarely exist in pure form. Instead, they mix diffusely with other minerals underground, making them costly to extract."

What are the 17 elements? The network has the list here. How many have you heard of?

And for those of you of a certain age, here's a link to that other Rare Earth. You can sing along if you wish.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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